Tang Dynasty Music

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History of Chinese music during the Tang Dynasty.

General information

Author Wiki Users
English title Tang Dynasty Music
Publication Music-China.org
Date of publication

Entities mentioned

In this article, especially the following entities (bands, artists, cities, articles, etc.) are being called out:

Keywords & Genre

The following keywords / genres apply for this article:

Traditional, History

Geographical span of this epoch

Tang Dynasty circa 700 CE.png

Important locations

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A famous painting called “Night Banquets of Han Xizhai” dating back to China’s Tang Dynasty, showing a female musician performing on a Pipa
Pear Garden

The Tang Dynasty lasted from 1 Jan 618 to 1 Jan 907. Modern rock band Tang Dynasty named themselves after the this particular period of time of China.

The Tang dynasty had a long period of economic, political and cultural growth. Traders, official delegates, cultural and religious missions from Central Asia, Vietnam, Japan, India and Korea were drawn to its brilliant capital center and contributed a cosmopolitan sophistication to Tang China. Foreign musicians resided at the court not only to give performances, but also to provide musical instruction.

The huge music bureau of the court, such as Jiaofang, was know to have in its employment thousands of musicians and dancers for daily performing duties.

The first music academy, Liyuan ("Pear Garden"), was instituted by Emperor Xuanzong (712–755) for performance and training of professional young musicians. Poems by some of the most famous literati of China were set into songs which were almost instantly popular. This body of ageless poetry was celebrated even in subsequent history, in China and abroad.[1]

The banquet music tradition for aristocracy known as yanyue had already been in practice during the ancient zhou dynasty. This music nevertheless, was overshadowed by the court ritual-ceremonial music, which was subquently reconstructed during the Han dynasty and called yanyue or "elegant and refined music". It was not untill the Sui and Tang dynasties that yanyue or "banquet music" became the major court musical genre for the first time. Yanyue was a court musical performance for the nobles and gentries during a state function and during days of festivity.[1]

The program of banquet music consisted of music of native and national minority Chinese as well as the music of neighboring nations. The foreign music, for example, the music of Samarkand, Bukhara, Fu ran (South Asia), India, and Korea. These seven non-native styles plus the native styles resulted in a total of ten musical divisions by the early Tang dynasty called the shibu ji or "ten performing divisions". However, the division of music was no longer organized by regional and international styles later, but by "standing music" and "sitting music" performance divisions. The standing division performed mostly outdoors, had a standard repertory, and included from sixty to one-hundred and eighty musicians and dancers. The sitting division had more of an ensemble quality, and included from three to twelve musicians and dancers.[1]

One of the instruments introduced during the Tang Dynasty is the xiqin, an instrument out of which modern-era erhu developed, according to Xing Liyuan, performer and lecturer at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.[2]

This change from divisions of stylistic regions to standing and sitting organization indicated that the sinicization of previously imported style had occured by the early 8th century, and that a national high art form of dance-music genre had been created. Newly composed music took the place of imported musical genres. Although none of the yanyue repertory survived, except by name along, perhepts a trace of the sitting division style might be seen in the gagaku music of Japanese court.[1]


It was also during the Tang Dynasty that the yuebu was developed, an official court music system.[3] The yuebu consisted of four parts:[3]

  1. jiubu yue and shibu yue
  2. erbu ji (including libu ji and zuobu ji)
  3. taichang sibu yue
  4. other forms (such as gongxuan bu)

Impressions of musical life in Tang Dynasty

Further information


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 unknown (camil.music.uiuc.edu). "The History of Chinese Music". Retrieved on 2013-02-24.
  2. Shanghai Daily (2007-06-25). "Erhu-the sound of China". Retrieved on 2013-03-14.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Yuebu of the Tang Dynasty: Musical Transmission from the Han to the Early Tang Dynasty. Wang Xiaodun, Sun Xiaohui and Chang Shijun. Yearbook for Traditional Music. Vol. 36, (2004), pp. 50-64

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